Jul 25, 2023, 05:55AM

Socratic Method Deemed Racket by Correspondent

Google bot quizzes also in glare.

Screenshot 2023 07 23 at 10.41.43 pm.png?ixlib=rails 2.1

Has anyone ever seen the Socratic method work, as in actually educate somebody? I doubt it. The student undergoes a version of Simon Says: teacher asks you this, you search your brain for this; teacher asks you that, you search your brain for that. The teachers hand goes up the victims mental butt to direct internal functioning. Ineffective for instruction, since a victim doesnt function well. But enticing as a way for teachers to spend their time. They talk it up to this day.

Not that the methods practiced by monsters, just that it appeals to the schmuckier side of the personality. Ive known two people who tried the Socratic method, and in each case I think vanity misled them. First, an editor I worked with tried it on a reporter. The reporter briefly reenacted the event for me. Asking What is a bond?’” the boy said, his mouth twisting. We worked at a publication that specialized in bonds; the question was either an arrival at first principles or an assholic waste of time. The reporter wasnt big on first principles, so the rest may have been inevitable.

Second, an acquaintance tried it on me. She was a small, high-strung woman whod been a nurse and was then trying to be an actor. I forget the topic we differed about, but she told me shed clear up my error while demonstrating the method. The process soon collapsed: being able to read the implications of a question, I responded by answering the points being raised. My acquaintance had been trying to do what we now call framing, and to do it in slow motion. She was going to feed me point after point until there I was, seeing matters the way she did, and all of it ratified by my own mouth. My would-be instructor loved the Socratic method as a truth device, but really she saw it as a rhetorical device, a way of presenting an argument.

To describe my questioners demeanor during the process, I quote from Mary RenaultThe Mask of Apollo. Its narrator encounters a student of Plato, and soon enough: I began to recognize that special tone I had observed at the Academy, when they played the game of questions, leading someone on till they scored a point. Being new and half-baked at it, he sounded rather silly. Like this fellow, my two practitioners were both wannabes, not pros. They wanted to fly the big kite and instead they watched it flop. Somebody more savvy wouldve kept it in the air, by which I mean his or her ego wouldve had more time to flourish. But I dont say smart guy wouldve educated anyone. Not that way, the things a racket: I ask leading questions, you answer them like a dope.

Listen, Google. None of those squares contains bridges. Some of the squares contain a bridge, but its one bridge apiece. Lets take a more advanced example, the bicycle quiz. Taken together the squares compose a picture, and the picture shows bicycles. But that doesnt mean any individual square contains bicycles. They contain handlebars, gears, edges of wheels, and so on. Yet, looking at this arrangement, you decide to ask which squares contain bicycles. Nobody moves on to the Wikipedia entry or the weather report unless we give you your incorrect answer. So we click all the squares that contain any part of a bike, and then we trust to your ability to usefully assess which blurred, indistinct shapes count as the outer edge of a bicycle part.

Note that I get these anti-bot quizzes when my VPN is on. No VPN, no quiz, at least not for routine googles. So the force gauging my intelligence is as dumb as a car alarm. It just goes off.


Register or Login to leave a comment